Daria Kasatkina, the highest-ranked Russian tennis player on the WTA Tour, revealed her fear for friends and loved ones after a military base near their homes was captured during the attempted Wagner mutiny on Saturday.
The Wagner group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, took control of the military facilities in Voronezh as part of the short-lived insurrection against the Kremlin on Saturday. Voronezh lies halfway between Moscow and Rostov-on-Don.
Asked about her contact with people back in Russia, Kasatkina told reporters: “My family, my parents are still in Russia. Well, as you can see, the last few days it’s been a big mess also there.
“Of course I’m worried. I’m worried for my friends, because my best friends, they actually live in Voronezh.
“I was pretty worried about that, because they were very scared. So was I, because I couldn’t do anything except to offer them to go to my city, because it’s more far so was not involved in the situation.”
The world No.11 was speaking after defeating Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina at the Eastbourne Invitational in England on Monday, a grass-court event ahead of Wimbledon.
Kasatkina has been one of the more outspoken Russian athletes with regard to the invasion of Ukraine, and has been praised for her stance by Ukrainian players on tour, such as Elina Svitolina.
The 26-year-old Russian acknowledged that her situation and experience is different to that of Ukrainian players, saying Ukrainians “are experiencing a way worse situation, but also, I mean, I can feel the same. I’m very worried for the people I love.”
“Feels s***, honestly,” Kasatkina said. “I’m not gonna hide it. It’s tough to, you know, to face the circumstances for such a long time already. Unfortunately, as we see, particularly me or tennis players, [there’s] nothing we can do about it, so we have to just follow what’s going on.”
Kasatkina said that tennis helps her to avoid thinking too much about the conflict.
“So far, thank God, when I’m on the court, I’m not thinking about it,” she added.
“When I’m on the court, I am, you know, in a different state of mind, which actually helps me to turn off from all this. Because since the beginning of the war, I was actually following everything every day. It’s a lot.
“I’m trying to turn off my head at least on the tennis court. It helps me a lot.”
Kasatkina next plays on Wednesday against the Czech Republic’s Karolína Plíšková.